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As with many other parts of the city, the area has varying definitions. Generally it may be taken to mean the part of town lying between Holyrood Park (and perhaps The Palace of Holyroodhouse itself) to the south; London Road and adjoining streets to the north; Calton Hill and the yards of Waverley Station to the west; and Meadowbank to the east. It is in the locale of the recently constructed new Scottish Parliament building, contains several old churches and other historic sites, and looks onto the Palace of Holyroodhouse.
Abbeyhill is one of the oldest parts of the city, taking its name from the ruined Holyrood Abbey, a major historic religious site. The main east-west thoroughfare through the area is London Road, laid in the 1820s as part of the Calton development of the New Town. This superseded an older road to Haddington which still skirts the north side of the King's Park, now officially named Holyrood Park
The suburb is largely composed of residential streets of tenement housing, such as Waverley Park and Milton Street, built in the mid-1890s on the grounds of Comely Gardens, a pleasure garden belonging to a local mansion, which operated along the same lines as London's Vauxhall Gardens. It was from here that James Tytler made Britain's first hot-air balloon flight in 1784, landing about half a mile away in Restalrig. Another area of distinctive character is "the rows", several streets of colony houses on the north side of London Road. It is not a major retail or commercial area. Apart from Meadowbank Retail Park, there are only some small local shops centred on London Road and the top of Easter Road, but the area is close to city centre facilities.
The south side of Lower London Road, sloping down to Meadowbank, is a mix of earlier small-scale industrial premises and newer residential housing.